July 10, 1900—April 18, 1984


KENNETH STEWART COLE'S training was in classical physics and electrical engineering but he turned his skills to the investigation of the electrical properties of living tissues. Through an impressive combination of theoretical and experimental approaches, he made major contributions to our understanding of the surface membranes of many types of cells, and especially of the changes undergone by the electrical properties of the membranes of excitable cells when activated. In particular, his demonstration in 1938 (with H.J. Curtis) of a large increase in membrane conductance during the passage of a nerve impulse, without change of capacitance, was a major landmark.


Kenneth Cole, known to his wife as Ken but to all his friends as Kacy, was born on 10 July 1900 at Ithaca, New York. His father, Charles Nelson Cole, was at that time an instructor in Latin at Cornell University; two years later the family moved to Oberlin, Ohio, as his father took a post at Oberlin College, of which he later became Dean. Cole's

Reprinted with permission of the Royal Society, London, England.

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